March Madness: Visualized

March Madness is upon us: screen time will increase, work productivity will decrease and brackets will be busted.

With 64 teams, 12 days of games and multiple TV networks carrying games, March Madness may not gain the singular focus of Americans like large single-day sporting events. Even still, the magnitude of the tournament is enormous: Fortune reports that March Madness brings in $1.13 billion in advertising revenue — more than three times the haul of the Super Bowl.

At Deep Root Analytics, we use set-top box driven TV viewership data to determine the value of advertising inventory for our clients. And with so much money spent during March Madness, we sought to answer some questions:

Does the reach of March Madness warrant such a massive advertising investment?
What is the best time of day during which to run ads?
Which network is the best choice for media buyers?
Which round brings the largest audiences to TV?
Who sings the best version of “One Shining Moment”?

Using our in-house ratings, we visualized the size of the adult audience during each round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Here’s what that looks like, followed by the answers we found to our questions:

Does the reach of March Madness warrant such a massive advertising investment?

Our data is clear: March Madness continues to drive massive television audiences. Except for the First Four (thankfully, the play-in games are no longer called the First Round) every round drew at least 20 million viewers across television networks — and multiple rounds exceeded 30 million viewers.

What is the best time of day during which to run ads?

Unsurprisingly, audience size increases later in the day. In 2015, the traditional prime time hours — 8 and 9pm — delivered the largest audiences in most rounds, but the Round of 32 and the Elite 8 both peaked earlier in the evening (6–7pm).

Which network is the best choice for media buyers?

Broadcast remains the best choice for advertisers trying to reach the largest audiences, with CBS consistently drawing the largest audiences of the networks carrying March Madness programming. Of the cable networks, truTV delivers the smallest audiences, while TNT performed better in earlier rounds of the tournament.

Which round brings the largest audiences to TV?

In 2015, the National Championship game drew a huge audience, but the Elite 8 actually performed better than the Final Four. In general, audience size grows by round, so purchasing inventory during later rounds will deliver higher reach for advertisers. Of course, they’ll have to pay for it.

Most importantly, who sings the best version of “One Shining Moment”?

The late, great Luther Vandross, of course.

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